City Beet

Gardening isn’t just for the countryside! This exuberant picture book celebrates the joys of community gardening and sharing food with neighbors and friends in the city.

Red gingham patterned endpapers set the table for City Beet, a reimagining of a Russian folktale commonly known as “The Gigantic Turnip.” The story begins when young Victoria and her neighbor Mrs. Kosta spy a flyer advertising a community potluck. Victoria wants to bring a raw beet and garlic salad to the party—yum! Of course, this duo doesn’t just run out to the store to buy some beets. Instead, they embark on an adventure to grow their own.  

And, oh, what a beet they grow! In fact, Victoria and Mrs. Kosta’s beautiful beet grows so big that when they set out to harvest it on potluck day, it won’t budge from the ground. Fortunately, living in a city means that the two are surrounded by lots of helpers. The delightfully diverse cast, which includes a taxi driver, a street sweeper, a pair of police officers and a recycling-truck driver, all jump into the action. Victoria is declared “too small” to pull along with the growing group of neighbors, so she gets busy grating garlic for the salad as the group of folks trying to pull up the beet grows—but the beet remains firmly planted. Only when Victoria comes up with a novel solution does the beet finally spring free, just in time for everyone to come together and enjoy a summer feast. The recipe for Victoria and Mrs. Kosta’s raw beet and garlic salad rounds out this delectable tale.

Author Tziporah Cohen’s simple text is complemented perfectly by illustrator Udayana Lugo’s bright color palette and lively art. Cohen incorporates vehicular onomatopoeia every time a new helper pulls up to the scene, and the facial expressions Lugo creates for each character imbue Cohen’s story with emotion. It’s especially funny to see each new helper grin optimistically as they join the group, then grimace as they realize that they’ve met their tuberous match.

The City Beet is a wonderful reminder that big problems are more fun to tackle—and more likely to get solved—when everyone pitches in. Cohen and Lugo close by teasing another culinary adventure in Victoria and Mrs. Kosta’s future. As the friends contemplate a save-the-date poster for a community Thanksgiving celebration, Victoria asks, “Butternut squash pie?”

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